Scrambling in the Vedauwoo, WY
If you have ever driven across Wyoming on Interstate 80 you may have noticed jutting out of the rolling prairie between Cheyenne and Laramie, a series of outcroppings that appear to be made of piles of large boulders. This area is known as the Vedauwoo (pronounced Vee-duh-voo) or "Land of the Earthborn Spirits". Interestingly enough these "large piles of boulders" aren't actually a pile of boulders at all, but what we call a tor. Tors are rock outcroppings that rise abruptly out of landscape. The tors of the Vedauwoo consist of granite rock and are actually one intact feature that is part of a larger system known as a batholith. A batholith is a large dome of granite rock that has been uplifted or exposed at the surface (ex. Sierra in CA, Sawtooths in ID).
The reason for the Vedauwoo's bouldery apperance is an erosional process known as freeze-thaw. The Vedauwoo is located at over 8,000 feet above sea level which means it experience harsh winter conditions including heavy snow, strong winds, and bitter cold temperatures for many months of the year. At the same time, at that high elevation and the relatively dry Wyoming climate the sun is quite powerful. What this means is after snow falls, the sun will met some of the snow during the day. The melted snow will then drip into the cracks of the rock, however at night the temperature will plummet below freezing freezing that melted snow in the cracks of the rock. That water is forced to expand as it freezes cracking the rock even more. The next day the sun will return and unfreeze the water. The water will transport the sediment that was cracked off in the night and the cycle will repeat. Over thousands of years this process will in turn create an appearance of boulders piled high onto each other. Thus is the process of freeze-thaw.
I'm a big geology nerd so it was only natural Chyna and I make the short hour and a half drive just across the border to Wyoming to do some scrambling in what is sometimes referred to as the "Joshua Tree of the North" for it's great climbing and similar geology. Enough explanation though, I'll let the photos do the talking.
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